As I start looking over the results of the Standard daily tournaments on MTGO, I quickly see a pattern of what decks are winning. They basically fall into two large buckets: the Primeval Titan bucket and the Stoneforge Mystic bucket. There are smaller buckets that these break into but those are the key cards in the majority of the winning decks. There are of course the smattering of other deck types, such as black sacrifice or old skool Boros, and even a random green elves. But the buckets pretty much dominate.
After selling my Jace's, I had been thinking I would just find a winning deck and build that but I really hate feeling like I'm just following the pack, at least while I think I might still have a chance at coming up with a rogue deck that is competitive.
So rather than go through all the various winning decks and decide which is most likely to win, I decided to go through all my current cards that are standard legal and decide which cards I wanted to try and build a rogue deck around.
Now, when I want to build a rogue deck, I always start from the same place. I pick a card that I thought was 'cool/interesting'. I usually have a ton of cards that catch my eye, but after initial review, it becomes clear that the cards (or rather, the decks I've built around those cards) aren't viable for any number of reasons - too fragile, too difficult to get combo pieces out, too easy to work around, etc. But I still like to try and find some way to make it work, and at a bare minimum, I mentally file away that card as something to check again when the next set comes out since a new card rotating in, or cards rotating out, make it now a viable deck.
This time however, I wanted to try and stick to the most recent set, Scars of Mirrodin. I occasionally will play paper magic if I find the time, and the SoM launch party was one such event. Aside from pulling a Koth, I also happened upon a nice little artifact that created an awesome combo, but no one else seemed to be talking about it or playing it. I unfortunately did not get the combo off more than once but I had been wanting to build a deck to take better advantage of that card.
At the launch party, I used the Coating to turn the opponent's enchantment into an artifact and then promptly destroyed it with an Oxidda Scrapmelter. To me, this seemed unbelievably powerful! Not only could I destroy anything, but the amount of artifact hate in the set was naturally very high.
So, with my key card in hand, I decided to try and see what I could use to abuse it. Naturally, I thought of Oxidda, along with 'Oxidda-lite' Manic Vandal and the bare bones Shatter. I also added the dual-purpose Demolish, helpful against those pesky Eldrazi land-using ramp decks. At this point, I was pretty much going to be Mono-Red.
With the basic meat of the deck defined, I needed to add the support cards - the cards that would help me survive until I got a Coating and something to kill artifacts with into play. I went for the most efficient burn spells I could think of, Lightning Bolt and Burst Lightning. I also needed an alternate win condition, just in case I wasn't drawing a Coating or it was removed by Memoricide or something. I immediately thought of a card I had learned about recently that wasn't getting much notice and I was able to pick up on the cheap (like .25 tickets or something each): Kuldotha Phoenix. Being Mono-Red also let me make Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle an auto-add. Lastly, I added some generic good 'support' in the form of 2x Mimic Vat and 2x Ratchet Bomb.
When I build rogue decks, I start with the basic framework and playtest before I even think about a sideboard or playing with the number of copies. So, my very initial deck was the following:
4x Liquimetal Coating
4x Oxidda Scrapmelter
4x Manic Vandal
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Burst Lightning
4x Kuldotha Phoenix
2x Mimic Vat
2x Ratchet Bomb
4x Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Off I went to the Casual > Tournament Practice room and joined a game. First match was against a mono-white Quest for the Holy Relic deck and was pretty much a wash since the opponent conceded the match after I burned his Memnite while his Glint Hawk's come's-into-play ability was still on the stack he failed to find a 3rd land.
The second match was against a Primeval Titan ramp deck. I don't know what flavor of ramp deck this was as I died pretty quickly just to his titans after being stuck at 3 land.
At this point, there were a number of things I could see wrong with the deck so it was back to the deck editor.
First, I definitely needed more land. At 24 lands, I was often stuck at 3 or 4 lands and falling quickly behind as the opponent could either drop cheap creatures, or find land very quickly. I decided to try upping the land count to 26 but in order to maximiz the effect, decided to add 2x Mystifying Maze as this could also help stave off an attacker that I didn't have an answer for yet.
I also felt I had gone overboard on the artifact hate. Too often I was sitting with a shatter or an oxidda that didn't have a target and no Coating in play. After some thought, I decided to remove the Shatters completely. While they are the quickest to cast, as well as my only instant speed artifact destruction, they were just too situational. All of the other artifact hate had a secondary use (creature, land destruction). I also found the burst lightnings to be too weak. Maybe it was because of my low initial land count, but I kept finding myself with a Burst without the necessary kicker mana.
On the plus side, I discovered some nice synergies that weren't obvious to me before. For instance, there is amazing synergy between the Mimic Vat and the Oxidda/Vandals. The first time I chump blocked with a Vandal only to imprint it on the Vat with a Coating on the table, I realized that I could now destroy any of my opponent's permanents for 3 mana! And if necessary, I didn't even need to wait to chump block, I could just use a burn on my own creature. I decided I needed to use a full playset of Mimic Vats.
I also hadn't really focused on using Liquimetal Coating's ability on my own permanents. But now I realized, I could very easily hit metalcraft with only 2 artifacts as long as one of them was the Coating! I didn't want to change the 'focus' of the deck too much by overloading on Metalcraft abuse (although that is definitely on my list of other ideas to try) but I realized I could make my Kuldotha Phoenix more useful by slightly increasing my artifact count to hit metalcraft more often. Even better, now with Metalcraft as another 'force' in the deck, I found a replacement for the Burst Lightning I removed earlier - Galvanic Blast. I had already added 2x Mimic Vats, but I figured I could do with some mana acceleration and added 2x Iron Myr.
Finally, I needed to cut 2 cards since I had added 2 lands. I decided I had enough artifact destruction as it was and decided to cut 1x Oxidda and 1x Demolish.
So then, my deck was the following:
4x Liquimetal Coating
3x Oxidda Scrapmelter
4x Manic Vandal
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Galvanic Blast
4x Kuldotha Phoenix
4x Mimic Vat
2x Ratchet Bomb
2x Iron Myr
4x Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
2x Mystifying Maze
Back to the Casual > Tournament Practice room for some more playtesting!
I definitely saw the improvements from my changes. I never got the chance to really play against a Primeval deck but got a lot of play in against various Quest decks. Given that the metagame seems to have a large number of these decks, it's not too shabby that I am pretty much set up as an anti-Quest deck. My only concern is handling the Kor Firewalkers after sb, and of course their own artifact hate in their sb.
Despite a big improvement from the first incarnation, I still had problems with having dead cards in my hands too often. One match against someone playing an Overwhelming Stampeding deck, I lost the final game with a Coating in play and a Mimic Vat waiting for an Oxidda or Vandal, but drawing nothing but land until the inevitable +x/+x. Needing some way to ditch the dead cards, I realized, I had a perfect answer in Chandra!
While Chandra Ablaze is a bit high on the casting cost, at that point in the game, I usually have most of the combo in play and just need one of my artifact creatures. I decided to replace a Kuldotha and an Oxidda (being on the higher end of my mana curve) with 2x Chandra Ablaze.
I also started working on my sideboard. I won't go into the details of my playtesting for that but here is a quick explanation of my current choices. I am pretty sure I will need to revise this though after playing against some more competitive decks:
1x Act of Treason - I have a singleton in case I run into a ramp deck with Eldrazi.
3x Chain Reaction - It may have just been the people that were playing at the same time I was testing but I continually ran into decks that dropped a ton of small creatures quickly. This is my attempt to try and clear the board.
3x Goblin Ruinblaster - Again for Eldrazi ramp decks
3x Ricochet Trap - I hadn't played against any Blue decks so this is just my standard anti-counter sb card.
2x Lavaball Trap - Again for Eldrazi ramp decks
2x Unstable Footing - One of my sb options for white decks that will bring in Kor Firewalkers
1x Brittle Effigy - Another option for both Firewalkers as well as Eldrazi
As I mentioned, I was limited to what decks I could play against in the Casual > Tournament Practice room. I know from experience that this is far from ideal but as a first pass, it should suffice. The only way now to really improve is to test it against decks that are really competitive. And the only way to do that is to play in an event that requires tickets. While there are a handful of options, to me the only ones that make sense are the 2-Man Constructed and the Daily Tournaments.
2-Man Constructed is my option if I just HAVE to play right now and I want to play against a competitive deck. Most people won't risk 2 tickets on a real casual/fun deck. The downside is that return is horrible. At 2 tickets to enter and winner getting a pack of SoM which is currently selling to bots at 3.9 tickets, unless you are winning more than 52% of the time, you are going to lose your tickets in the long run. This is usually not the best option if I'm not completely confident in my deck AND in my knowledge of the deck and the metagame. But again, if I just need to play at a more competitive level, this is sometimes the only option if I can't align my schedule with the dailies.
The Standard Daily is the best bang for the buck and I know others have written more extensively on this. At 6 tickets to enter, you play 4 rounds and prizes are 11 packs for 4-0 and 6 packs for 3-1. Not only do you get to play more games (4 rounds for 6 tickets versus 1 'round' for 2 tickets), the payout is MUCH higher if you win. I don't know the math for this but trust me, even going 3-1 is almost a 4:1 payout (versus less than 2-1 for a 2-man tourney). And if you are good (and lucky!) enough to go 4-0, you have almost a 7:1 payout!!
Anyways, now I am in the unenviable position of all 'decked' out with no where to go. I want to play in a Daily but the next Standard Daily isn't until 11pm. I want to maximize my Jace investment as much as possible so I am going to force myself to refrain from joining a 2-man. I just hope I don't massacre my deck second-guessing card choices as I continue playing/testing in the Casual > Tournament Practice room.
And speaking of Jace investment, I did have to purchase a few of the cards I added to my deck. I kept my shopping to cards that were either cheap (<.5 tickets) or could be used in more than just this deck. That being said, my purchases for this deck were:
2x Mimic Vat (2.7 each = 5.4)
2x Galvanic Blast (.15 each = .3)
1x Ratchet Bomb (2.5)
4x Kuldotha Phoenix (.12 each = .48)
Total : 9 tickets (8.68)
With luck, I will have a nice write-up of how this performs in tonight's daily. Until then, I'll be testing, testing, testing!
Current Jace-Ticket Tally
Initial Amount: 364
Mono-Red Coating Investment: -9
Current Amount: 355